Standards? What standards?
Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke has been asked to remove public domain material from her blog
28 Aug 09

Over at Your Right To Know, the estimable Heather Brooke, whose freedom of information work did so much to expose the scandal of MPs expenses, details a bizarre demand from the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Brooke had testified to the committee on 30 June, and also given a written submission. The submission was subsequently published on Brooke’s site and on the committees.

But earlier this week, she received an email stating:

Dear Ms Brooke

Our lawyers have advised us not publish your submission due to the following reason:

“it contains statements about named individuals which are potentially defamatory.”

We are currently seeking their clarification and requesting suitable redaction.

Once we have this, I will forward them to you for your authority, in writing, to the redaction. We will then be able to publish your submission.

Anju Still
Business Manager
Committee on Standards in Public Life

The evidence had, indeed, disappeared from the committee’s site.

Brooke today received a letter from the committee, suggesting she redact certain parts of the submission published on her site. You can read the submission here, with suggestion redactions in bold).

There seems to be no evidence that anyone actually wants to sue Brooke for any part of her submission. As she put it to Index, we are witnessing a “culture of proactive self-censorship. They are not even waiting for a complaint but predicting possible complaints.”

Furthermore, how can the committee conduct its business, if people cannot report to it without any protection from potential defamation proceedings?

Curiouser and curiouser.